So I just read, and finished my first book of 2017 called Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey. And damn it was good!
I don’t actually know how to review a book and so this is not really a proper book review. I just know that when I finished Jasper Jones, I really wanted to write about it. (And yes, there are spoilers ahead!)
It made me have heaps of feelings.
I first heard of Jasper Jones when I saw the movie trailer. I really wanted to watch it but I just missed it at the movies. I found a copy of it at home, randomly sitting on the table and picked it up. It was really good timing too because that was just before I was about to have a week off from work.
After I read it I had to google “how to write a book review” and due to my goldfish-like memory, I couldn’t really pull the details to answer the questions properly. But that’s partly due to my INFP personality too lol. All I can really say is how it made me feel.
To really water it down, this book is about Jasper Jones, an Indigenous kid, who recruits the help of the protagonist, Charlie Bucktin to help him try and solve the murder of a young girl whose body was found in Jasper’s literal ‘safe space’ (If you didn’t know that People of Colour, ESPECIALLY Indigenous and Black people, need safe spaces… well now you know!) And the book is about how Charlie, aka Chuck deals with all this.
To me, Jasper Jones is really about racism. I don’t think that word actually came up at all during my reading come to think of it now heh (but don’t quote me on that).
I can guess why.
It is also about growing up, friendship, bullying, rape, suicide, budding relationships and family draaaamas!. I might even say it is about inaction and maintaining the status quo.
I really really loved the writing (Thanks Craig Silvey!). It was light and funny despite the dark and terrible circumstances. And I honestly enjoyed and cracked up at Chuck’s thoughts and feelings about his (bitch of a) mum and dad, his crush and his feelings regarding the Cool Jasper Jones. I kind of liked his banter with best friend Jeffrey Lu but mostly it was waaay too geeky for my own taste. I mean if you like arguing about superheroes and cricket, do you baby, but that is not my cup of tea. But I digress, it was cute albeit sometimes annoying.
I was pleased there was a bit of diversity in the character list so I thank Craig Silvey for trying to include some people of colour in his book.
Now here’s the part where I kind of go off on a tangent. I think what I really liked about Jasper Jones is that it opens the floor to conversations that we NEED to have on racism, bullying, sexual assault, rape, dealing with grief, poor parenting and suicide. This book touches on all of these things, unfortunately but not unexpectedly, that is all it really does. After all, it is through the eyes of a 13 year old boy.
Now for the criticisms.
I can tell a white person created all the People of Colour. Ironically, let’s start with Jasper Jones. Jasper was somehow a plot device in this story and stereotypical. He plays and is a beast at footy… but also drinks and smokes. He weirdly has no Indigenous family or friends at all. I mean, it is a country town in Australia you’d think there’d be more Indigenous folks??
And then we had the quiet, calm and intelligent Vietnamese family? C’mon! (This is not to say that this is a bad thing but isn’t that a little bit stereotypical again?)
And then there were the two women of colour who were portrayed as meek, accommodating and cheery women…
Please don’t do us like that… give us facets, make me feel something… make me real!
I only say this to encourage folks to portray us as humans who live in the world. Like I said before, props to Mr Silvey for having these characters, but please go a step further and make us 3D and real.
Despite the above criticisms I really am happy I found this book… literally haha. Like all things, it has its flaws and it has it’s redeeming qualities.
Overall, I would give it a B+.
P.S- I watched the trailer on Youtube and was reading the comments and was stoked that they are reading these in Australian high schools. I hope they unpack it all.